North Korea is trying to attract foreign investment for new cruise ship routes linking Mount Kumgang to the Russian city of Vladivostok and Southeast Asia, a DPRK website entitled “Mount Kumgang” said earlier in the month.
The website released investment guidelines on March 15 to promote the operation of a 20,000 – 30,000-ton ferry docking at Kosong Port in Kangwon Province located near Mount Kumgang.
The cruise program provided two different routes for investment: one connecting the Mount Kumgang resort to Vladivostok while passing through the North’s port cities of Rason and Wonsan, and one linking Mount Kumgang and Wonsan to Southeast Asia.
“By using the cruise ship, [we] will diversify international tourism of Mount Kumgang which is famous mountain of world,” the investment proposal said. “The passenger ship will be equipped with various facilities to allow 1,000 travelers to do cultural and safe travel in the sea.”
The prospectus also added that a “casino business can be operated” on the ferry.
The cruise program will be run at the Kumgang Special International Tourism Zone special economic zone (SEZ), which is run by the Kumgangsan Special Zone for International Tourism Development Corporation, an organization charged with attracting foreign capital of USD10-20 million to the project.
The entities can invest in two different ways: through an independent foreign company or equity joint venture, and investors can operate the passenger ship for 10 years.
In a move to promote the Wonsan and Mount Kumgang International Tourist Zone, the North previously released another investment proposal entitled “New Establishment of Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang Cruising Ship”, but the 1000-ton cruise ship can only travel back and forth between Wonsan and Mount Kumgang. The total investment cost for this new ship is estimated to be around USD4 million.
The proposal said that one ferry could carry one hundred tourists, a tenth of what the new 20,000–30,000-ton ferry can carry.
The DPRK has long tried to promote tourism to Mount Kumgang. Hyundai Asan, a South Korean company, previously ran the resort for over a decade until July 2008, when South Korea suspended the tour program after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier at the resort.
“China is excluded [from the routes] due to its geographical position: a passenger ship [in Kangwon Province] would have to pass by the South’s East Sea, the South Sea, to get there,” Kim Young-hee, team head of the North Korean Economy Department at the Korea Development Bank (KDB), told NK News.
Kim also said the North suggested the casino business could be a new source of hard currency for the DPRK.
“Foreign companies can make a lot of money if they manage casinos, and the profits may not even be funneled to the North,” she added. “The North can only earn money if around 1,000 passengers visit Mount Kumgang and Wonsan, and the country charges a berthing fee to the foreign investor when their ships anchor at the North’s [Kosong] port.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: cruisedotco‘s Flickr
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